Untie your knots

We are going around the world overland and presently in Istanbul, waiting for our visa to China.

We have visited the bones of 10 apostles of Jesus and we plan to find St. John in Ephesus after the visa wait is completed. These days, we are walking around, looking at things.

We are on our way to the Spice Market. Walking in Istanbul requires watching for cars and trucks, which can appear at any moment!

We enter the Spice Market. We seek a recipe for Turkish eggplant.

It is noon and we hear the call to prayer. Muslims pray fives times a day. The voice is used like a musical instrument.

We hope to cook for ourselves in Selchuk (near Ephesus). You are invited to join us.

Here is a recipe for Turkish Patlican Oturtma (eggplant with meat):
2 eggplants – (peel, cube, and soak eggplant in water 20 min., dry with cloth)
Green pepper
Large onion
2 tomatoes or 1 cup canned tomatoes
1 tsp. salt (I use less)
1/2 tsp cumin (or slightly more)
1/2 tsp pepper and/or red pepper flakes (I use more)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup water
olive oil for frying
1/2 pound ground lamb or beef (or less — see veg. option)
Mint, parsley to taste

Preparation directions: Fry eggplant with some oil (don’t fry too much, maybe 5 min.), fry the meat until color changes, add onion, green pepper, garlic (fry about 5 min.), add everything together with some water, cook on low heat on stove 20-30 min., add pepper, cumin toward end of cooking…..alternate directions for oven: put shredded cheese on top, bake 20-30 minutes in baking pan at 375 degrees F.; serve with rice, yogurt.

Vegetarian option: chickpeas and mushrooms instead of meat

We walk to the New Mosque, near the Spice Market.

People in Istanbul care for stray cats. Here is a cat, Karen, and the New Mosque (Yeni Cami). When it was completed in 1663, it was new and the name stuck.

This is a good place for meditation. Note calligraphies of Allah, Muhammad, first Califs.

We have tea with a guy who wants to sell us a carpet. We are shown that a hand woven silk carpet changes shade when turned. This carpet sells for $500.00, the guy says, but we have not begun bargaining. We don’t need a carpet. We have no home.

We are on our way to the Basilica Cistern.

Emperor Justinian ordered the construction of a cistern beneath the basilica after the Nika Riot of 532. It was built by 7000 slaves and used over 800 columns (Ionic, Corinthian, Doric), “recycled” from the ruins of buildings from various parts of the empire.


One column has a Hen’s Eye and tears. Ancient texts suggest that the tears are a tribute to the hundreds of slaves who died building the cistern.

Two columns rest on bases with the visage of Medusa. She is thought to have the power to turn those who look at her to stone. One image is placed sideways, one upside down, perhaps to thwart her power.

Each afternoon, I go to the Blue Mosque to learn about Islam.

Men engage in ritual washing (Wadhu) to prepare for prayer. This involves washing hands, mouth, face, forearms, and feet, creating the proper concentration of thought for prayer.

I stand between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, near the Firuz Aga Mosque. I hear the calls to prayer.

Most people consider their own religion as true and other religions as false. If humanity is to survive, a new way of thinking is required. All religions have people who express their frustration through violence and their capacity for destruction increases with technological advance.

All religions offer solutions. A minority of people follow their inner way and experience spiritual reality, a realm more real than mundane reality. This path leads to simplicity, humility, and compassion. This is what Lao tsu advocates. The paradox within his teaching is that the inner path does not involve words.

Lao tsu writes (chapter 56):

“Those who know don’t talk.
Those who talk don’t know.
Close your mouth,
block off your senses,
blunt your sharpness,
untie your knots,
soften your glare,
settle your dust.
This is the primal identity.
Be like the Tao.
It can’t be approached or withdrawn from,
benefited or harmed,
honored or brought into disgrace.
It gives itself up continually.
That is why it endures.”

Spiritual traditions direct those who seek truth to stay still and experience inner reality. Normal life creates swirling winds of desire and suffering, clouding true perception. By stilling the mind, the dust settles and spiritual perception becomes possible. This unifying mysticism is at the heart of all spiritual practice. Ritual, meditation, prayer focus the mind. By focusing your mind on the One, the mind becomes clear.

The Muslim call to prayer:

Allah is Most Great. Allah is Most Great;
Allah is Most Great. Allah is Most Great.
I testify that there is no god but Allah;
I testify that there is no god but Allah.
I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.
I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.
Come to prayer! Come to prayer!
Come to salvation! Come to salvation!
Allah is most great! Allah is most great!
There is no god but Allah.

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